This past week many have become a part of the Orthodox Church through baptism and/or Chrismation.
This morning I read the words that a woman posted to an e.list that I am a part of. The post read:
I was received into Orthodoxy by standup and pour type rebaptism and chrismation on Apr. 22, AD 2008 in the OCA. My new name is Justina, in honor of some events that showed God is stronger than the devil and all sorcerors.
First communion was the next day. This was the first lent I was able to keep entirely, with a blessing from the priest to use eggs if I got too weak. When I first got interested in Orthodoxy, and started keeping some core traditional practices I figured I would never manage more than Wednesdays, Fridays, and Holy Week. But over the past three years I have gotten stronger and more able to do without meat.
But I am still not strong enough or able to avoid the interfering insomnia to attend all services. I was 26 or 27 hours at least no sleep by the time I got baptized. And when I venerated the Burial Shroud, I had been 31 hours I think maybe more, no sleep, in addition to fasting from midnight except for a drink of water to stop some heartburn a little after midnight before the veneration, and I ate immediately after and still had things to do that day. So I will be recovering through Bright Week and probably not doing anything more.
A convert’s enthusiasm… in one fashion or another many of us have been there.
After reading her words I felt the desire to respond.
What follows is the response that I shared with her, and the list.
I also share it with the readers of this blog… especially to the newly Illumined:
Congratulations to you my sister.
May God grant you many years!
I am not a Priest.
I am just a struggler following Christ. It is from this perspective that I write you.
My wife, children and I are Orthodox Christians who are a part of the St. Silouan Orthodox Church community in Walla Walla, WA. http://saintsilouan.org/ We were baptized in July of 2000.
Your zeal to participate in the life and Services of the Church is wonderful– may God fan that flame into a fire that burns deep within you. With that said, I want to encourage you my sister to participate in Services as you are able; if you need to sleep– sleep. We are not monastics, we are not made of the same stuff that the Saints, righteous ones, and monastics that we love were (and are) made of.
Even when you read some of the writings or lives of modern day Elders they comment how things have changed. Our Priest was recently telling us how Elder Arsenios (co-struggler with Elder Joseph on Mt. Athos) after the repose of Elder Joseph and he began to have monks live with him had to change for the sake of the new monks. Whereas he and Elder Joseph would eat meagerly, the new monks would need two meals a day– and he would need to eat with them to set the example.
I do not know if your Church was having Services all night, or if you were keeping Vigil in your home or what the circumstance was; but my encouragement is in the future to pursue these things after talking with your Priest. If your Church has Services going on late, and you need to sleep or etc –talk to him about it, get his counsel; it does not make you any less Orthodox to need rest.
Since this is a Fr. Seraphim Rose elist, allow me to share a story that was told to me that falls into this same idea of not doing something without guidance:
Two laymen (who are both now Abbots of Monasteries) arrived at St. Herman’s Monastery. In the course of their time there they shared with Fr. Seraphim how they wanted to create a hesychast monastery. Yes a noble idea. But what was Fr. Seraphim’s comment? He said to them that they should read St. Ignatius’ chapter on prelest (spiritual deception.) Fr. Seraphim saw the danger of attempting great spiritual feats, even noble ones, on our own.
Our Lord knows our heart. He also knows we are human, with our weaknesses.
I write these things timidly, because I do not know you and because I do not want to discourage you. But I also write these things because I do not want to see you get burned out and the flame within you get extinguished.
I would encourage you (after you regain your strength) to talk with your Priest about your Holy Week experience. And also share with him the different responses you have received to your email.
A blessed Feast to you!